I began to contemplate the stupendous nature of RuPaul’s Drag Race last term while procrastinating writing an essay. It was about literary approaches and I HATED it, loathed it, but there was some honey drizzled onto the bitter essay: Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation and Rita Felski’s The Limits of Critique. Their essays (which I have greatly simplified and probably not understood) argue that readers shouldn’t focus on the ‘latent’ meaning of texts because it de-emphasises their surface meaning. I took this to mean that I should enjoy it. It was fine to say I liked the colours. It was fine to say that the sentence sounded nice.
I have a habit of interpreting. I often write a sermon and pretend it’s a column. But not today! Because interpreting? WRONG! Sometimes you just have to shut up. My inside voice is loud and you know what calms it? RuPaul’s Drag Race, in all its glorious forms. I do not want to interpret it and I stop introspecting when I watch it. The queens allow me to eat my chocolate on the sofa in silence, with only occasional interjections. But even my interjections aren’t needed because they react for me. When watching them, I am fabulous by default – they reflect their fabulousness onto their viewers.
Recently, my best friend said that she’d like to redefine ‘necessities’ for the modern age. Drag Race became a necessity for me in the summer. Basically, I was lonely. I would return to my room at my internship to find a lone house gecko and probably a mosquito. But if I simply opened Netflix, within minutes there’d be a QUEEN (praise be) turning looks, being silly, being vulnerable, delivering radio entertainment, visual deliciousness and the welcoming fabulousness that a girl abroad requires.
Drag Race is my desert island after a shipwreck. For my boyfriend it’s Friends and for my mum it’s Frasier. But my best friend doesn’t have one. What do people do when they don’t have telly to lean on; other, parasocial relationships to be invested in instead of your own?
Zadie Smith is clearly in the pro-telly camp. In an interview with The Times she named RuPaul’s Drag Race as her favourite series to solo binge-watch. She said “I’ve got nothing intelligent to say about it. I just adore it.” I feel similarly. I expect I could delve into analysing performance, persona and self mashed with vulnerability, but frankly I don’t care. The queens look divine and they cheer me enormously. Here are some of my faves:
(A caveat: I have only watched two series of US RuPaul’s Drag Race. My wider Drag Race consumption extends to the UK, Canada, All Stars and the VS The World franchise. I have rewatched the UK S2 RuRuVision episode five times, had a loving relationship with Canada’s Drag Race through Michaelmas term, fallen out of love with Ru, fallen in love with Brooke Lynn Hytes, begun US RuPaul’s Drag Race and fallen back in love with Ru. To proceed with my fave queens, in no particular order…)
- Bimini: LIMP WRIST HAIR FLICK CREME-DE-LA-CREME/ LOVE YOURSELF/ SAY THAT AGAIN! Author of the most iconic BAFTA-nominated verse, Bimini is soooo fabulous. I particularly like their leopard-print coat and when they arrived as an amoeba for the ‘prehistoric’ look. They always gave a new interpretation on categories, wearing a wedding dress for their final runway, mimicking the end of a fashion show. I wish I could have seen them perform at Manchester Pride.
- Giselle Lullaby: She’s so kind!! Helping the queens seemed like a disadvantage and the judges urged her to focus on herself, but ultimately her willingness to help others won her the crown. A seamstress and consistent goddess. Reigning Canadian champion.
- Icesis Couture: THE LOOKS ON THIS QUEEN!! Her opening look, with the tartan and safety pins, won her reputation for impeccable runways, which she mostly made herself. I think she won the hearts of EVERYONE when making over the LGBTQ+ teens ready for prom whilst opening up about her own struggles with her mental health. She seemed to sit down and get on with being gorgeous through the whole competition.
- Jujubee: I first saw Jujubee in UK VS The World where she wasn’t particularly good and was only saved by her reputation. What reputation? I thought. I watched S5 All Stars and everything became clear. She’s so funny and able to be vulnerable. I thought her looks weren’t consistently terrific but her vibe was divine compensation.
- Cheddar Gorgeous: Sorry, Dr. Cheddar Gorgeous – long-time Manchester queen and intellectual massive, the cheesy gorge was consistently funny, beautiful and politically active, using her runway looks to inform audiences about LGBTQ+ causes, like the threat of HIV and the Stonewall riots. My friend thought she should have won, but I thought she had effectively already won: Ru already knew of her, she’s been on the scene for years and already has a platform (now even larger) that she uses to explore political issues close to her heart.
- Vanessa Vanjie Mateo: Vanjie … Vanjie … came BACK. I already knew of Vanjie through Brooke Lynn on Canada’s Drag Race and I remembered her tremendous personality from the 10 minutes she was on screen. As her critics said, I felt her looks weren’t very varied, but she always looked hot and the imitable essence of Vanjie was eternally present. She seemed to be performing herself and I loved to watch it.
- Crystal Methyd: BEAUTIFUL! She seemed to do well simply because she had a mullet, which is a dubious criteria for success. I love her looks – it’s like she’s a clown and 12 years old and Boy George. I thought she wouldn’t win because another quirky queen, Yvie Oddly, had won the year before, but I rooted for her nonetheless. Her one-woman show was absolutely SUBLIME – or should I say PHENOMENAL (her performance as Phenomenal Phil was so funny). She was entirely able to be silly and blossomed into being so confident through the series.
I hope Drag Race continues forever. I hope there are more and more queens shablam-ing and storming off and not being able to sing. Long live the queens!